There’s no better intro to this story than the one in the article, so here you go: “In late January 2012, A. J. Daulerio, then the editor in chief of Gawker.com, published a post on the site announcing an experiment. Every day for the next two weeks, he explained, a different Gawker editorial staffer would be assigned to “traffic-whoring duty,” and their sole task would be to publish whatever posts they thought would earn the most unique visitors.”
There you go, the stage is set for a discussion about the tension between metrics and journalism. It’s a discussion that has been ongoing since long before the internet - what is in the public’s interest vs. what the public is interested in - but the economics of digital publishing have really brought that tension to the fore. To what extent is a journalist responsible for balancing the need to generate revenue with the responsibilities of serving the public interest?
Writing for Nieman Lab, Caitlin Petre examines the murky grey area between the two: “While not all staffers drew the line in precisely the same place, a general pattern emerged: Using metrics to inform a story’s “packaging” and promotion strategy was widely seen as permissible, even laudable, while using metrics to inform a story’s subject or “content” was not.”
Chrome’s cookie delay has been a welcome respite for an industry under pressure. But with no viable replacements on the horizon, publishers wasted no time doubling down on their first-party data plans. Our Esther rounds up 2021 in data and privacy as part of our Media Moments 2021 report.
Look, there’s lots to say about this deal. For the most part I’m disappointed but not surprised - it was always just an ambitious scale play from The Athletic, one that in the long term will hurt smaller newspapers and probably won’t be worth the NYT’s investment. Predictable, sad, and disappointing. For Recode, Peter Kafka explores the whys and wherefores of the deal.
We all knew that Spotify wouldn’t be content with traditional means of monetising podcasts. Its new CTA feature inserts brands much more proactively into a medium that has always been much more about passive consumption. We’re protective of podcasts, but we’re willing to see how this one plays out before making a judgement.
This week's podcast:
We’re releasing the first episode of 2022 on Jan 17th; a special looking at local news start-ups in the US and what they need to become sustainable. In the meantime, here’s a throwback from last year:
I mentioned Gawker earlier in today’s newsletter, so it’s fitting we throw back to this interview with someone instrumental in a staff exodus from its parent company. If you fancy you can also listen to me and Peter discuss the disastrous launch of GB News as it happened - this podcast really is a time capsule.
We’ll be building out our written analysis this year. But did you know we also published a bunch of content before Christmas looking at media trends over the past year? If it passed you by in the pre-holiday rush, you can catch up here in our Analysis section.